Hold for Release Until the End of the World Ch. 6 - C. V. Hunt
Joe has C. V. Hunt on the show and they talk about extreme horror, running small presses, Hunt's great books, and more.
You can contact the show at firstname.lastname@example.org - Just put WTR in the subject line.
Contact for C. V. Hunt
Art photo by Arielle Tipa
The grocery store parking lot was a nightmare of honking horns and pedestrians who either looked lost or angry as they pushed their bounty to their cars or, in some cases, toward the bus stop ten feet from the door. The horde of people was mainly comprised of angry tricenarians dressed like teenagers from fifteen fashion seasons past or quadragenarians rode so hard on prescription pill abuse, alcoholism, and sheer depression they looked either homeless or thirty years older than what they actually were.
I maneuvered my car around a homeless man standing beside an empty parking spot. He held a cardboard sign with ‘will incert things in my anus for fuud’ printed in very straight and neat script which indicated any money given to him might actually be used for something useful and he wasn’t experiencing withdrawals from whatever drug of choice most people in Daxton chose to numb themselves with. I avoided making eye contact with the man with the sign as I exited my car and made my way quickly and cautiously across the parking lot.
I dodged out of the path of a few cars with raging drivers who honked at me and screamed for me to get out of the fucking way. But escaping the rampaging paths of the pedestrians with carts was always more difficult.
One woman who looked like she’d lifted herself off a barroom floor before coming to the store braced the handle of her cart, glared at me, and came rushing at me. I jumped to the right and she corrected her cart to keep me in target. I dove to the left, fell, and did a half summersault before righting myself. She missed me and plowed the cart full force into the back of someone’s car.
Her head snapped in my direction and she spat, “Crazy bitch! Didn’t you see me?! Get the fuck out of the way!”
“Sorry!” I said and took off in a half jog toward the store.
A woman who looked like a rabid soccer mom was next. Her bobbed and stacked haircut was accentuated with multiple unnatural chunky streaks, each streak a different shade of natural hair color, none of which were her own. She braced the handle of her shopping cart like a linebacker and came barreling at me. I rolled across the hood of someone’s car at the last second to avoid being hospitalized while the woman screamed, “What the fuck is the matter with you?!”
I managed to make it to the door without being trampled by one of the many angry shoppers as they made their way to their vehicles. I was almost hit by a car as I played a Frogger-like game at the last stretch of asphalt separating the parking lot from the semi safety of the store’s sidewalk.
As I reached the doors a man’s voice rose out of the chaos.
“Miss! Miss! Miss!”
At first I ignored him. I couldn’t imagine someone using the endearing term to refer to me. Miss was what one would call a pretty and young girl. Not an overweight, forty-year-old woman. But the man’s insistence increased as I was about to cross over the threshold and into the store.
“Miss! Miss! Miss!”
I turned and spotted a rail-thin man approaching from the direction of the bus stop. He wore a baseball cap, an oversized baseball jersey, and satiny basketball shorts. The sensors for the doors I was standing in front of triggered and opened the glass doors and I managed to move out of the way just as another shopper hurled out of the store with their cart and screamed obscenities at me.
The man stopped five feet from me and said, “Miss, do you happen to have a cigarette?”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t smoke.”
His face twisted into fury. “Well, you’re a fucking bitch.”
“Okay,” I said and entered the store.
The entryway to the store where the shopping carts were normally stored was empty except for a handful of ransacked racks that normally housed some local free papers, three kiddie vending machines someone had shattered the glass to and emptied, and a few broken carts. I picked the cart with the most amount of wheels—which totaled three since the front right one was missing—and struggled with it as I entered the store.
The din of the parking lot could not compare to the cacophony of noise inside the store. The first thing I was confronted with were the checkout lanes which was a mob of cashiers and customers bitching at each other, mingled with the sound of several wailing children. I tried to make quick work of passing the area but the absence of the fourth wheel on my cart made moving quickly impossible. I was forced to pull back on the handle on the left side to keep the front end of the cart from dragging on the floor.
At the end of the row of checkout lanes a man wearing either a police uniform or a security uniform resembling a local police officer’s uniform was beating an elderly woman relentlessly with a night stick while she lay on the floor surrounded by broken and smashed produce, shielding herself with her arm.
I passed the beating and barreled into the produce section. I threw some overpriced and wilted lettuce in the cart along with some slightly moldy tomatoes. I gave up on the produce section once a man decided to repeatedly ram his cart into mine and call me a cunt because my cart happened to be sitting in the exact spot he wanted to stand so he could stare at the carrots.
Next was the bread. Two men were fist fighting in the bread aisle. There was no bread on the shelves but several loaves were on the floor, smashed and trampled and flecked with blood as the two men relentlessly pounded each other’s faces. The fate of the bread was becoming more compromised by the handful of other shoppers tromping down the aisle and picking through the wreckage. I became one of those people and snagged up a loaf of unmarred bread without inspecting it and later found out it was stale and moldy potato bread.
I emerged from the aisle and found myself in the meat and deli section. There was a line of people shouting at the deli employees. And I spotted a person clad in all black with a black umbrella, which hid their face, standing by the greenish cuts of beef, motionless. I pushed and pulled my cart in their direction. I grabbed handfuls of random half-spoiled meat and tossed them in the cart, trying to get a look at the figure’s face. I was certain it was the same person living in the shed even though I hadn’t gotten a look at their face then. But the figure managed to turn and disappear into the crowd, keeping their face hidden from me the whole time. Someone rammed my cart with their own and I knew it was time for me to move on.
We needed toilet paper but I wasn’t able to find it since the store had taken to rearranging the location where everything was stocked on a weekly basis. I did happen to find some napkins, which would have to do, after I abandoned my cart for a few brief seconds and squeezed by a group of three shoppers who’d decided to stop in the middle of the aisle, blocking any other shoppers from passing, to have a conversation. They’d become engrossed in their own conversation and grown oblivious to their surroundings. I’d shouted ‘excuse me’ five times before sidling by them. I was certain I would be able to pass them without any incident because they seemed unaware of me but one of the people from the group glared at me on the return pass while I held the napkins above my head and tried not to disturb them.
I grabbed a handful of random canned goods from the shelves I passed, struggling with the integrity of my cart and fending off other aggressive shoppers, and made my way toward the end of the store.
A small child sat on top of a shelf and threw cans of tuna at the shoppers, laughing hysterically if he happened to hit one in the head. He didn’t manage to hit me but he did deposit several cans in my cart. I passed a large man choking a woman as she hit him in the head with a package of diapers and an infant wailed wildly in an abandoned cart. Once I made it to the end of the store I knew I was at the worst part before the checkout lanes . . . the pharmacy.
A man was shouting at someone cowering behind the counter in the pharmacy pickup area while waving around a lit cigarette. Someone with a backpack and a ski mask hopped the counter and started shoving random bottles of pills into their bag. The other pharmacy technicians pelted the masked person with random bottles and objects within their reach.
Shoppers in the raided aisles of the over-the-counter medicine and aids and bandages shouted random questions at the workers in the pharmacy.
A woman shouted, “I have herpes! Will calamine make my vag stop itching?!”
An old man shouted, “Can I swallow suppositories?! I’m not an ass pirate and I’m not sticking anything in my ass!”
Another person. “I have a rash!”
And another. “My kid has a fever of a hundred and seven!”
The masked man raiding the pharmacy pulled a firearm from the band of his pants and waved it around. The technicians all hit the floor. The shoppers continued their endless questioning as I hurriedly passed the havoc.
“What’s causing this rash?!”
“Where’s the lube?! My pussy is really dry!”
“Oh, god! I just shit myself!”
I made it to the checkout lanes before I heard the gunshots and screams. I held onto the cart handle and put my head down, anticipating what would happen next. Half of the people in the store rushed toward the doors in a panic, knocking over the display cases for energy drinks and trampling small children and the elderly in the process. Most of the shoppers on line to check out abandoned their carts and joined the mob.
“Amateurs,” I muttered to myself.
The group of people milling about on the observation deck above the front doors cheered. A woman in an evening gown, draped in expensive furs, raised her champagne glass and laughed loudly as she watched the mass of people below her. A man in a tuxedo beside her raised a paper ticket and was shouting he had the correct time stamp as a few other men around him crumbled their tickets and puffed on their cigars. A servant wearing a tux with tails approached the luxurious couple with a covered silver platter. He lifted the lid and exhibited banded stacks of cash and displayed the platter to the ticket-holding man with a flourish. The woman picked up one of the stacks of cash and rubbed it against her face with an expression of pure ecstasy and I wasn’t able to hear her over the din but I imagined she was moaning as she did so.
When the dust had cleared and the people who had rushed the doors were gone the employees hidden under the registers slowly lifted their heads, checking to make sure it was all clear. They didn’t bother to make sure the shooter was gone. The shooter most definitely had disappeared into the mob anyway. The employees were only checking to make sure the stampede was over.
I wasn’t the only person who’d taken their chance and stayed. One dirty and disheveled woman had continued to haggle with the cashier about the price of a can of corn as if she were at a flea market instead of a grocery store.
The dirty woman berated her cashier. “I don’t care if it scans seventy-five cents! I’m only paying fifty cents for that! It has a small tear in the label!”
A female cashier who appeared exhausted and wore smudged blue eyeliner and had slicked back her hair into a high ponytail emerged from under the register. “Ma’am, you can’t barter for your groceries.”
“These prices are ridiculous! I demand to see the manager!”
“You have demanded to see the manager after every item I’ve scanned up to this point because you don’t want to pay the stickered price. And I will give you the same answer I gave you when I scanned the previous”—the cashier turned to look at her screen—“thirty-seven items. Our manager quit over a week ago. If you have an issue you need to call our corporate headquarters.”
The cashier placed the can of corn in the accumulating bags and grabbed the next item, which appeared to be the second to last item in the woman’s order. She scanned the item and the dirty woman went on another tirade of refusing to pay the price the computer had displayed and demanding to see the manager.
I left my cart and began clearing the carts out of one lane with a waiting cashier.
When the other woman was told her total she began to haggle that price also. And then they moved on to her twenty expired coupons.
Once I had all but one cart out of the way I swept the remaining items of someone’s abandoned purchase into the cart with my arm before roughly shoving the cart out of the lane.
The employee stationed there was a pimple-faced kid. Or maybe he was covered in meth sores. It was hard to tell anymore. He watched me with a scowl as I fought to push my three-wheeled cart through the rubble.
I unloaded my cart onto the conveyer and told the cashier to start a new sale as multiple sirens grew louder outside. The customer in the other lane asked if she could write a check and the group of people on the observation deck broke out into a fit of hysterics.